A welcome contribution to American religious and political history.

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KINGDOM OF NAUVOO

THE RISE AND FALL OF A RELIGIOUS EMPIRE ON THE AMERICAN FRONTIER

Vigorous study of the early Mormon settlement in Illinois, linking its founding to a rising anti-democratic tradition.

Park (History/Sam Houston State Univ.; American Nationalisms: Imagining Union in the Age of Revolutions, 1783-1833, 2018, etc.) joins the history of Mormonism—a term used throughout the book but one that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seems to be distancing itself from—to that of Puritanism as a breakaway political movement whose members “believed the nation had forgotten its true purpose and was in need of a return to divine values.” In the case of the Mormons, that return involved a repudiation of the Constitution in favor of a document called the Council of Fifty, which “rejected America’s democratic system as a failed experiment and sought to replace it with a theocratic kingdom.” Thus the Kingdom of Nauvoo, on the Mississippi River, a place very different from the Utah in which the Mormons eventually took shelter. Persecuted by neighbors and officials for polygamy and sedition, the Mormon residents of Nauvoo—12,000 of them in 1844, by Park’s reckoning—also suffered internal divisions, including a famed disagreement between Mormon founder Joseph Smith and his wife Emma over what she regarded to be widespread sexual impropriety. As a force meant to clean society of its evils, the Mormons attracted plenty of like-minded converts, including a handful of African Americans and Native Americans who were definitively second-class citizens in the new order. Park allows that the Mormons had a point to make and that they were not alone in protesting a democracy that had witnessed much impropriety itself since the days of the Revolution, including “legal precedents based on the flimsiest of judicial decisions and political traditions established in the wake of corrupt electoral bargains.” The author effectively links the Mormon critique to other dissidents, including the states' rights advocates who would lead the secessionist movement and modern-day dissidents who “flagrantly challenge the political and legal system” and reject the nation’s democratic precepts.

A welcome contribution to American religious and political history.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63149-486-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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